11/3/09

Update on Conquistador and Rescued Bands - The Cloud Foundation

Update on Conquistador & Rescued Bands
 And what you can do to help put a moratorium on current massive roundups


Dear Friends of the Wild Horses;

I had the honor of traveling to Montana to visit our families of older wild horses that had been removed from the Custer National Forest Lands. These older horses include 19 year-old Conquistador and 21-year-old Grumpy Grulla. 15 horses in all, comprising four family groups.

















We were able to buy and adopt them so they could stay together in their family units. Through the efforts of Laura & Carl Pivonka and Mike Penfold a large ranch was found just north of the Pryors where the horses could stay. When I arrived on Thursday with my friends, Crow Elder and Historian, Howard Boggess, and former BLM Deputy Director, Mike Penfold, I found all the horses looking healthy, but still in corrals awaiting release out into their large pasture that The Cloud Foundation has leased.



On Friday, in preparation for their release, ranch manager, Baerbel Streutzle and I began flagging miles of perimeter fence with pink and orange marking tape so the horses could clearly see the boundaries of their new world. One fence had to be built to avoid a gate that Crow Tribal hunters frequently use but may or may not shut. After our “fencers” (as Baerbel calls them) completed that fence we put them to work adding an additional wire to the top of a fence that borders the ranch road.



The fun part began that evening. I filmed as Baerbel quietly opened the gate for Bo, Chalupa, little Star, Grumpy Grulla, Sierra, and Sand to exit their large paddock and enter the immense pasture that is now their home. I expected them to race away from us, but once in the open field, they were much more interested in grazing. After weeks of eating only hay you could just see their joy at diving into the lush grass at the ranch.



Saturday morning, Laura and Carl, Mike and  his wife, Dona, and Howard arrived and helped us release first Trigger, Mae West and Evita, then Shane, Mystery and Moshi, and then Wild Blue (aka Floyd), the four-year old bachelor who had been mistreated in the chutes and even hotshotted by Troy Cattoor, who is the son of the owners of the Catoor roundup company.

Bo, Trigger, and Shane greeted each other in typical band stallion fashion, standing nose to nose sniffing and snorting, then squealing, spinning and finally marching back to their mares. Wild Blue, however, drew more attention from Trigger and they really fought for a few minutes before Trigger got his message across. Stay away from my mares! Wild Blue had likely been challenging Trigger on the day of their capture as he was caught with the band the day of their roundup.


Last to be released was Conquistador and his mare, Cavelitta. The proud old stallion (looking not a day over ten) and his mare pranced side-by-side into the big pasture and Shane immediately raced up to Conquistador for a ritual greeting. Then Wild Blue galloped over, making a dash at Cavelitta. Very quickly Conquistador taught him a lesson about messing with the tall black mare.



Wild Blue looked so small as Conquistador bit him on the neck and put a leg over the young stallion’s back. Once Conquistador had made his point, all the bands moved apart and went back to peacefully grazing. 



After the big release, the hardest work began. Laura, Carl, Mike, Dona, Howard, myself and Baerbel, as well as her friend and neighbor, Andrea (aka Shorty), began attacking the burdock growing at the back of the pasture in the cottonwoods and aspen trees. We cut the burdock and stacked the tall plants in piles and began burning them. Burdock has burrs that cling to the horses manes and tails and we tried to get as much of it cut and burned as possible. We were told that the idea for Velcro came from the burrs on these plants that can grow to six feet. I can believe this because I spent a lot of time pulling burrs out of my shoelaces, socks, and wool hat.



On Sunday we traveled back to Billings and watched the premier of Cloud: Challenge of the Stallions together feeling really good about the rescue of these little bands and their safety on this isolated ranch.



Thanks for making this happen! Without your donations to the Freedom Fund, these horses would have been forever separated and confined. Some would likely have gone into government holding facilities or even worse.  We hope that we can count on your continuing support as we work to return them to their home in the Pryors or to 70,000 acre Garvin Basin in the adjoining Bighorn Mountains. The Crow Tribe of Indians has expressed a desire to have their ancestral ponies again roaming on tribal lands.



For now, these horses are together and safe. . . thanks to you! I was not able to make the long trip around to access the Pryors and see Cloud for myself, but others who have seen him and the other horses in the wild report that they are well. It was at a cost of over $150,000 that our government removed 57 horses this September in the Pryors, leaving Cloud and only 124 other horses roaming free in all of Montana.

 
 

The BLM is now in the process of removing over 12,000 more wild horses and burros from our public lands. According to independent analysis of BLM’s own 2008 numbers we don’t have more than 15,500 wild horses left on the range. Please join the Cloud Foundation in calling for an immediate moratorium on the roundups now underway. You can see a schedule of the roundups here.

Action alert steps here:
1.    Send your letters demanding an immediate moratorium on all roundups to President Obama. Call your Representatives and follow up with faxes, letters and calls to all.  The roundups must stop in order to allow time for independent analysis on the true numbers of horses remaining and investigations into the true reasons for removing 12,000 wild horses and burros this fiscal year.

2.    Sign the Save Our Wild Horses Resolution petition to stop the roundups & join the Cloud Foundation mailing list to stay informed (join us on Facebook & Twitter & check our Blog for frequent updates too).
3.    Please watch the investigative report from CBS's George Knapp: "Stampede to Oblivion" and share this online video with everyone.
4.    Last but not least, 
contact media—this story of mismanagement of our mustangs and burros, truly living history, needs to be explored & shared. Write letters to the editor and ask National outlets for better coverage- we are on the verge of losing wild horses and burros before most of America knows we still have them in the wild. Media contacts online.


 

*Correction! This photo was incorrectly credited in the last e-mail, photo of Cloud turning to face the helicopter is Living Images by Carol Walker*
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"From my earliest memories, I have loved horses with a longing beyond words." ~ Robert Vavra